Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Myanmar holds significant strategic importance for India....

Myanmar holds significant strategic importance for India....
India-Myanmar: a half-built gateway....By Bertil Lintner

US-Myanmar: Engagement as nuclear pre-emption....

IMPHAL, Manipur - When a group of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ambassadors last year traveled the road from Imphal, in eastern India, to Moreh on the Myanmar border, the trip was officially arranged to show the diplomats India's emerging land bridge to Southeast Asia. Although the envoys enthused about the land link's trade possibilities, it was hard to determine how genuinely impressed they were after hours of bumping along on the 100-kilometer, pot-holed, windy road.

Yet the torturous road reaching to Myanmar is a vital link in India's business-driven "Look East" policy, a gambit aimed at expanding the South Asian country's trade, investment and influence to the

east. For that policy to succeed, however, New Delhi needs not only to upgrade the way leading to its border, but also the highways to and from Assam in northeastern India, the country's geographical gateway to Southeast Asia. Roads and infrastructure on the Myanmar side are comparatively even more decrepit.

Before Indian policymakers can build a proper highway connecting the country through Myanmar and to mainland Southeast Asia, a lasting solution must be found to the ethnic insurgencies and other security problems in its northeastern hinterlands. Local ethnic insurgents frequently collect "taxes" on trucks and other vehicles plying not only the road to Moreh, but also on most major highways in Manipur, one of northeast India's seven states.

To India's chagrin, many of those rebels - ethnic Nagas, Manipuris and Kukis - maintain sanctuaries in remote areas on the Myanmar side of the border, beyond the reach of Indian security forces. These rebel forces are also known to have obtained weapons from various clandestine sources on the Sino-Myanmar border. Some of these weapons originate in China while others are made in secret gun factories in areas in northeastern Myanmar not controlled by the central government at Naypyidaw.

Despite these difficulties and the pitiful condition of the Moreh road, trade between India and Myanmar is booming. Before 1988, apart from smuggling activities, there was scant commercial activity along the two countries' shared border. Bilateral trade more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, expanding from US$557 million to $1.2 billion. Myanmar ships mainly agricultural goods and natural resources, while India exports chiefly machinery, industrial equipment, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. India-Myanmar trade is beginning to rival that of the booming cross-border trade between China and Myanmar, which has been brisk for almost two decades.

At the same time, it is clear that India is still lagging far behind China when it comes to accessing Myanmar's markets and mineral resources. In 2010, trade between Myanmar and China amounted to at least $3 billion, with some economic analysts putting the figure as high as $4 billion. Some of that trade passes through Myanmar to India, witnessed in the flood of Chinese-made goods in India's northeastern region. The Paona International Market in Imphal, popularly referred to as the "Moreh market" or "Myanmar market", is flush with Chinese-produced electronics, clothes, bags, household utensils and other cheap manufactures.

Pragmatic policy shift
Immediately after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising in Myanmar, India sympathized with the Aung San Suu Kyi-led opposition. Rajiv Gandhi, India's prime minister at the time, came out in open support of the movement, and New Delhi implemented policies that gave shelter to Myanmar refugees and allowed dissidents to operate freely from Indian territory. This, of course, was not for entirely altruistic reasons: the policy was viewed widely as India's way of countering China's influence in Myanmar.

India began to re-evaluate that strategy around 1993, out of concern that its policies had achieved little except to push Myanmar closer to Beijing. Even then it was obvious to policymakers that the Suu Kyi-led opposition would not assume power anytime soon. The result was a dramatic shift in policy aimed at patching up relations with Myanmar's ruling generals. In turn, Myanmar signaled to India to take greater interest in improving bilateral relations to lessen its heavy dependence on China.

India's interests in Myanmar are obvious. Apart from serving as a link to lucrative markets and trading partners in Southeast Asia, New Delhi wants to ensure that northeastern insurgents are deprived of sanctuaries and supply lines through its eastern neighbor - and to keep Chinese influence there at bay. India's rapidly expanding economy also needs energy, and New Delhi has shown strong interest in importing more oil and gas from Myanmar.

India also has plans to build a 1,200 megawatt hydroelectric power station on the Chindwin River, across from India's northeastern region, and is involved in several other infrastructure projects inside Myanmar, including major road construction projects. In short, India is busy opening its west-east corridor through Myanmar to protect its own economic as well as strategic interests.

To open the way, India has taken a number of initiatives to rid its rebellious states in the northeast - Assam, Nagaland and Manipur - of insurgents and establish permanent peace in the region. That task was made easier when Sheikh Hasina's pro-Indian Awami League government took over in Bangladesh in December 2008. Her predecessor, Khaleda Zia and the Bangladesh National Party, provided sanctuaries for insurgents who moved about freely in the capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong, where Indian rebel groups had received many illicit shipments of arms.

In late November 2009, Bangladesh arrested United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and its deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua along with eight other Assamese militants and handed them over to India. In September 2010, Rajkumar Meghen, better known as Sana Yaima, the leader of Manipur's United National Liberation Front, was arrested in Dhaka and bundled off to India. At about the same time, the main arms procurer of the Naga rebels and a frequent visitor to China, Anthony Shimray, was arrested at Kathmandu airport in Nepal and ended up in Indian custody.

While these arrests have been significant from a strategic perspective, India knows that simply detaining ethnic insurgent leaders won't be enough to achieve peace in the restive region. There are also widespread grievances among the local population that will need to be addressed before there is lasting peace and stability along India's Myanmar frontier.

New Delhi's Myanmar policy and its anti-China aspect are even clearer in the Indian Ocean. China now imports most of its oil and gas from Central Asia and the Middle East and made it clear several years ago that it intended to build a pipeline through Myanmar to avoid the clogged and potentially volatile Strait of Malacca bottleneck for its fuel transhipments.

For this purpose, and to import natural gas from the fields in the sea south of Myanmar, Beijing and Naypyidaw signed an agreement in March 2009 to also build a natural gas pipeline extending across Myanmar to China's southwestern Yunnan province. Those projects are well underway: piles of pipes can now be seen at the Jiegao border crossing between China and Myanmar, and at various sites along the highway to Kunming, Yunnan's capital.

Building such a conduit for crucial energy supplies in a foreign country would be risky without substantial political influence and an extensive signals intelligence network in the Indian Ocean sea lanes where the fuel is transported. China has large stores of both through its ties to Myanmar.

India has not taken lightly the prospect of another major player in a maritime area that it considers its own lake. This concern provides a new aspect to the age-old strategic rivalry between India and China - and another reason for India to counter China's influence over Myanmar.

New great game
Not surprisingly, the US's Barack Obama administration has expressed its support for India's "Look East" policy. On November 23, US deputy national security advisor for strategic communication Ben Rhodes said: "The President very much welcomes India's Look East approach. We believe that just as the United States, as a Pacific Ocean power, is going to be deeply engaged in the future of East Asia, so should India as an Indian Ocean power and as an Asian nation."

In January, a US naval ship visited India's Andaman Islands to conduct search and rescue operations, shipwreck salvaging and naval vessel repair exercises with their Indian counterparts. The commander of the US vessel, Derek Peterson, "lauded the cooperation" of the Indian Navy and said he was impressed with its capabilities.

That strategic exchange followed on a March 2010 visit by the USS Patriot at Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The news site of the Commander of the US 7th Fleet reported from that US naval visit that "Patriot Sailors will train with the Indian Navy; special emphasis will be put on damage-control and mine countermeasures training."

The official report also quoted Douglas Woods, one of the ship's officers, saying: "First day we pull in we got a flag football game with the Indian navy and a soccer game with the Indian navy. We also have cricket lessons for all personnel that want to go out and participate in. Indian navy personnel will provide the lessons."

Indian naval officers interviewed in Port Blair by this correspondent in January said there was nothing more to the US naval visit than basic joint training exercises. But it is hard to imagine that routine exercises were the main purpose of the US naval visits. Myanmar - and even more so China - likely watched the US-Indian naval cooperation with some trepidation.

Both Myanmar and China know that India's military has upgraded its presence on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in a bid to meet new challenges in the maritime region and to safeguard its own interests in Southeast Asia and the Malacca Strait. To be sure, there were more important issues of concern for India and the US than diving for sunken ships and teaching American sailors how to play cricket.

That said, the more recent anti-Chinese stance taken by Myanmar's new government should be music to the ears of India's security planners. India rolled out the red carpet for Myanmar President Thein Sein when he arrived in New Delhi on a three-day state visit on October 14, adding to speculation that Myanmar aims to reduce its heavy dependence on China and make more room for India. In a joint statement, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed Thein Sein's "ongoing efforts at political, economic and social reform."

In the 19th century, Arthur Conolly, an intelligence officer of the British colonial army, coined the expression "the Great Game" to describe the strategic rivalry between the then British and Russian Empires for supremacy in Central Asia. More than any other objective in the competition, the Russians sought access to the Indian Ocean.

Another "Great Game" involving India, China and the US is now playing out in Asia on the eastern fringes of the Indian subcontinent. But before the regional balance of power tilts away from China and towards India, the potholes on the road to Moreh will have to be smoothed out. Only then can China's grip on Myanmar be challenged and India able to link up more directly and strategically with Southeast Asia.

Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review and author of several books on Burma/Myanmar, including the forthcoming Great Game East: India, China and the Struggle for Asia's Most Volatile Frontier.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The legend of Gondwana resurfaces....

The legend of Gondwana resurfaces....By Raja Murthy

MUMBAI - Remains of the lost supercontinent of Gondwana surfaced again last week, with Australian scientists discovering bits of this gigantic land mass that once linked Asia and India with Australia and Antarctica.

Sydney University geophysicist Jo Whittaker said this "exciting discovery" could reveal how the supercontinent of Gondwana broke into present-day Australia, Antarctica and India between 60 and 130 million years ago. At that time, called the Cretaceous period, the dinosaurs were lords of the Earth roaming across a mammoth mass of land that may have connected where Tokyo, Perth, Kolkata and other Asia-Pacific cities now stand.

How different could have been the histories of India, Japan and the world if the continent of Gondwanaland had not splintered into pieces in the Indian Ocean? That all phenomena are in a constant flux of change, and that whatever happens has positive outcomes and silver linings, is truth applicable to supercontinents too.

Geologists say an even bigger monster land mass called Pangaea existed over 200 million years ago, surrounded by one universal ocean called Panthalassa. The northern half of Pangaea was the other supercontinent called Laurasia. Gondwana was the southern supercontinent.

Scientists from Sydney University, Macquarie University, University of Tasmania and from Israel were part of an expedition that found the two islands that may be bits of Gondwana on the seabed in international waters 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) west of Perth. Soil samples they collected during their deep sea expedition this October could be one billion years old, they said.

Gondwana is of particularly interest, since the chunk of land that is now India moved northwest away from the Australian continent, then drifted north and northeast, according to geologists. The eastern piece of Gondwana coast crashed into Eurasia, forming the mighty Himalayas. The Himalayas became protective guardian wall for human life and civilization to flourish in the Indian sub-continent.

Gondwana could be the motherland for most people on Earth, with this supercontinent forming half of current land mass. Besides Antarctica, Australia, India and Sri Lanka, Gondwana included what are now Africa, South America and New Zealand.

The continent of Gondwana fascinates geologists. Plate tectonics - the study of geological activity beneath the Earth's surface - is an infant science that gained wider acceptance only about 60 years ago. A German meteorologist Alfred Wegener in 1912 had first declared theory of continental drift that applies to Gondwana. Geologists are still learning the basics how continents move and collide. Continents are moving every second, as is all phenomena in constant flux.

Dr Bhaskar Rao, a leading Indian geologist and director of the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), said that understanding Gondwana and how continents were formed and broke up is very important for climatic, environment reasons, as well as in the search for mineral resources.

"Study of Gondwana is of particular significance to India since the volcanic eruptions of the Deccan Plateau in central India happened about 60 million years ago," Rao told Asia Times Online. "This is about the same timeframe of the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent."

Rao, a former postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Minnesota in the United States, convened the 8th International Symposium "Gondwana to Asia Supercontinent Dynamics: India and Gondwana" in Hyderabad this August, as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of NGRI. The International Association of Gondwana Research in Japan was the co-organizer.

"India’s Lakswadeep Islands [meaning 'hundred thousand islands' in India’s coral belt off the eastern coast] was also part of the Gondwana break-up," Rao said. "So too is Madagascar, off the southeastern coast of Africa."

The supercontinent strikes deep enough chords in India for a province to be named Gondwana - a former administrative region covering parts of what are the modern Indian states of Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and the Deccan Plateau that straddles western, eastern and southern India.

Gonds are the medieval tribal population inhabiting India’s Gondwana region. Said to be among the largest tribal groups in South Asia, the earliest recorded presence of Gonds was in the 14th century - over 60 million years after Gondwana broke up.

The 15-member expedition in October-November, aboard Australia's leading ocean exploring ship RV Southern Surveyor, aimed to find more about how Australia and India were separated, and more about the "de Gonneville Triangle" - the oceanic crust that formed junction of Australia, India and Antarctica. It could hold key to how and why Gondwana broke up into separate land masses. [1]

Besides the Himalayas, the Alps too were squeezed out upwards when Africa separated from the South American land mass and crushed against Europe. Appropriately for this universality in collision of continents, a Gondwana theme park "Gondwana - Das Praehistorium" thrives in Landsweiler-Reden, Germany, giving visitors a glimpse of what life could have been in Gondwanaland.

The Gondwana rocks that scientists discovered in the Indian Ocean last month contained fossils of creatures found in shallow waters. It meant they were once part of the continent at or above sea level rather than created by undersea volcanic activity, said expedition members.

"We have a fairly good idea where those continents were but we don't exactly know, the eastern Indian Ocean is one of the more poorly explored parts of the world's oceans in terms of tectonics," Jo Whittaker told news agency Agence France-Presse. "So it will help us figure out the plate kinematic motions that led to India moving away from Australia and heading up off to crash into Eurasia."

The rocks would be compared with the samples from Australia's west coast to see exactly where the islands broke away. What was the Indian coast to the Gondwana land mass cannot be matched as that crashed coast is now somewhere high up in the Himalayas.

Professor Whittaker, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Geosciences in Sydney University, is studying Indian Ocean plate reconstructions and continental break-up as part of a research project on "Gondwanaland extension, breakup and continental margin evolution".

Various theories periodically emerge about why Gondwana broke up, and whether it just split into two major chunks - with the Indian sub-continent and Australia - or whether it splintered into many more bits of land that comprise other Asian countries. [2]

Other major Gondwana research efforts include those from the International Association for Gondwana Kochi University in Kochi, capital of Shikoku island of Japan. The Japanese Gondwana University focuses on research in origin and evolution of continents, particularly Gondwanaland and its crustal fragments.

The study of Gondwana, and the plate movements beneath the Earth's crust, throws light on the movement of the deadly tsunami waves. Tsunamis are caused by earthquakes that in turn are caused by continental restlessness of the plates beneath the Earth's surface.

The Australia continent is currently traveling north at seven centimeters (2.75 inches) a year, and the catastrophic 2004 earthquake and tsunami were linked to such plate movements and subterranean collisions. Getting to know better what happened to Gondwana could save thousands of lives.

1. Objectives and Voyage plan of the 15-member expedition aboard the Southern Surveyor, led by chief scientist Simon Williams:
The Perth Abyssal Plain: Understanding Eastern Gondwana Break-up.
History of Ancient Supercontinent Detailed. Live Science, April 28, 2008.

The Gondwana supercontinent underwent a 60-degree rotation across Earth's surface during the Early Cambrian period, according to new evidence uncovered by a team of Yale University geologists. Gondwana made up the southern half of Pangaea, the giant supercontinent that constituted the Earth's landmass before it broke up into the separate continents we see today. The study, which appears in the August issue of the journal Geology, has implications for the environmental conditions that existed at a crucial period in Earth's evolutionary history called the Cambrian explosion, when most of the major groups of complex animals rapidly appeared.

Gondwana Shift: The paleomagnetic record from the Amadeus Basin in Australia (marked by the star) indicate a large shift in some parts of the Gondwana supercontinent relative to the South Pole....


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

All 6 Fukushima Reactors In Big Trouble?


All 6 Fukushima Reactors In Big Trouble?

Everyone knows that Fukushima reactors 1-3 have melted down, and the fuel pool at reactor 4 is ruined.
But reactors 5 and 6 have been almost entirely ignored since the earthquake because – we were assured – the reactors were in controlled shutdown prior to the earthquake, and so all was safe.
However, there are rumors of problems.

For example, Fukushima Diary notes:
On Tepco’s press release data of 4/25/2011, Iodine-133 was measured at intake of reactor 5 and 6.
0.15 Bq/cm3 8:50 4/24/2011
0.23 Bq/cm3 14:30 4/24/2011
i131 5n6 a Are Fukushima Reactors 5 and 6 In Trouble Also?
Also, according to press release data of 6/13/2011, the temperature of reactor 5 and 6 were hotter than 200 ºC, and data of 3/11~3/15 are concealed.
Even on 3/19/2011, they were still 183C and 167C.delete Are Fukushima Reactors 5 and 6 In Trouble Also?
5/16/2011, Tepco released data of how much contaminated water is sticked [I assume he means "stuck"] under the container vessels.
The table shows,
300 cubic meters under reactor 5,
13,500 cubic meters under reactor 6.
reactor6water Are Fukushima Reactors 5 and 6 In Trouble Also?
In the data on 6/13,the temperature of the water in container vessels are carefully concealed from 3/11~15
(See original for additional graphics; and see this).
Remember that reactors 5 and 6 have spent fuel pools as well as reactors. As  on March 16th:
Kyodo News notes:
Edano said water temperatures in the pools at the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors at the Fukushima plant have been rising as well.
The agency said among the three, the situation is the severest at the No. 4 reactor because all the fuel rods are stored in the pool due to the change of the reactor’s shroud. At the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors, up to one-third of the rods are being kept in the pools. The more fuel rods that are kept in a pool, the more radioactive substances could be emitted.
on May 31st:
While most of the problems have been at reactors 1, 2 and 3 (which were all operating when the earthquake hit) and reactor 4 (where spent fuel rods have been leaking), there have also been problems at reactor number 5 as well. Specifically, as
NHK writes:
The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says temperatures in the Number 5 reactor and its spent fuel storage pool have risen due to pump failure. The reactor has been in a state of cold shutdown.
Tokyo Electric Power Company says it found at 9 PM on Saturday that a pump bringing seawater to cooling equipment for the reactor and pool had stopped working.
TEPCO says temperatures have been rising since then.
And as the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations’ Special Report on the Nuclear Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, demonstrates, the whole story of a cold shutdown of reactors 5 and 6 may be questionable.
As summarized yesterday by EneNews:
  • “Four of the five emergency diesel generators on units 5 and 6 were inoperable after the tsunami”
  • “One air-cooled emergency diesel generator on Unit 6 continued to function and supplied electrical power to Unit 6, and later to Unit 5, to maintain cooling to the reactor and spent fuel pool.”
  • “Unit 5 had been shut down and in an outage since January 3, 2011. Fuel had been loaded into the reactor and the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) reassembled.”
  • “Unit 6 had been shut down and in an outage since August 14, 2010. Fuel had been loaded into the reactor and the RPV reassembled.”
  • “The Unit 6 air-cooled EDG and portions of the electrical distribution system survived the tsunami and were used to reestablish cold shutdown on units 5 and 6.”
  • “After the tsunami impacted the site, operators were able to use the 6B emergency diesel generator (EDG) to provide power to cooling systems for the Unit 6 spent fuel pool. After installing temporary cables, the 6B EDG [generator] provided power to Unit 5 spent fuel pool cooling.”
This post is not affirmatively making claims, but rather asking questions, to which we deserve answers … especially since Tepco has been covering up the scope and severity of the accident since day one....
I followed the Fukushima drama very closely for 3 months and noticed several strange readings in the Tepco-reports during this time. The pressures, water levels and temps in the various parts of the “undamaged” spent fuel pools at times signaled a beginning criticality. I checked the status daily. The reactors themselves produce neutrons (especially when they go critical) that in their turn “heat” up the spent fuel pools. So this kind of radiation aka neutron soup is very “contagious”. All reactors and all storage facilities are drowning in this soup. Even the debris is affected. In time, it will only get worse....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fukushima: Further Away From a Stable Shutdown Than Japanese Claimed....

Fukushima: Further Away From a Stable Shutdown Than Japanese Claimed....

Radioactive xenon has been detected at the Fukushima nuclear plant, indicating that nuclear reactions are still occurring.
BusinessWeek notes that the Japanese government has confirmed the existence of radioactive xenon:
The detection of xenon, which is associated with nuclear fission, was confirmed today by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the country’s atomic regulator said.
NHK reports:
The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it found in the facility’s No.2 reactor radioactive substances that could have resulted from continuous nuclear fission.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, said on Wednesday that it detected xenon-133 and xenon-135 in gas taken from the reactor’s containment vessel on the previous day. The substances were reportedly in concentrations of 6 to more than 10 parts per million becquerels per cubic centimeter.
Xenon-135 was also detected in gas samples collected on Wednesday.
Radioactive xenon is produced during nuclear fission.
The half-life of xenon-133 is 5 days, and that of xenon-135 is 9 hours.
The utility also says it wants to take a close look at the situation of the plant’s No.1 and 3 reactors.
Bloomberg writes:
Given the signs, it’s certain that fission is occurring,” Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at Tepco who regularly talks to the media, told reporters in Tokyo today. There’s been no large-scale or sustained criticality and no increase in radiation, he said.
It’s possible there are similar reactions occurring in the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, the other cores damaged at the station, Matsumoto said.
Melted fuel in the No. 2 reactor may have undergone a sustained process of nuclear fission or re-criticality,” Tetsuo Ito, the head of Kinki University’s Atomic Energy Research Institute, said by phone. “The nuclear fission should be containable by injecting boron into the reactor to absorb neutrons.”
Bellona points out:
According to Bellona physicist and executive director, Nils Bøhmer, and Dr Komei Hosokawa, head of the Department of Environmental and Social Research at Japan’s Kyoto Seika University … The presence of these gasses indicated fresh nuclear fission taking place in the hot debris of the melted fuel rods at the bottom of the container….
“This clear indication that a nuclear chain reaction is going on in one the reactors is a very bad sign. TEPCO had said that the situation would be stable within nine months after the accident,” said Bøhmer.
“Any on-going uncontrolled chain-reaction is not an indication of a stable rector, and we could face a much longer period of instability until the reactors are safe,” he said.
A TEPCO official has confirmed a so-called “partial re-criticality” incident in reactor No 2, said Hosokawa in the information he forwarded to Bellona. Hosokawa said the term “partial re-criticality was “a new vague word for [TEPCO’s] spin practice.
Other radioactive gasses detected at the reactor, said Hosokawa, included Xenon-131m and Krypton-85, which are likely remnants of the chain reactions that occurred immediately after the earthquake and tsunami.
However, Ex-SKF reports – based on a handout from Tepco – that there was a “100-Fold Increase in Krypton-85 from November 1” to November 2nd.
EneNews notes the significance of Krytpon-85:
According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, “Krypton-85 is the best indicator for clandestine plutonium separations” when conducting wide-area atmospheric monitoring.
Also, EX-SKF writes, “According to wiki, ‘About three atoms of krypton-85 are produced for every 1000 fissions (i.e. it has a fission yield of 0.3%)’.
Bellona also writes:
Japanese nuclear authorities … say the chain reactions will not affect the projected shut-own schedule. Currently the temperature at the hot zones of the reactors is been sustained at below 100 degrees Celsius by seawater constantly being pumped in.
Hosokawa, however, strongly disagreed, citing the apparent present condition of the nuclear fuel in reactor No 2, if not others.
“TEPCO so far claimed that the melted-down uranium had formed an oval shape with a cooled-down crust. Their roadmap for the “cold shutdown, if ever, is based on this condition,” said Hosokawa. “Now that they propose a quite different view regarding the condition of nuclear fuel, the roadmap vision [for shutdown] cannot be intact.”
Indeed, we’ve been reporting for months that nuclear reactions are probably still continuing at Fukushima (as have Fairewinds, Ene and Ex-SKF.)
The New York Times points out:
The unexpected bursts — something akin to flare-ups after a major fire … threaten to increase the amount of dangerous radioactive elements leaking from the complex and complicate cleanup efforts, raising startling questions about how much remains uncertain at the plant….
The plant’s owner admitted for the first time that fuel deep inside three stricken plants was probably continuing to experience bursts of fission.
It is impossible to determine exactly what state the fuel is in, given that even an intact reactor can offer only limited gauges in the form of temperature, pressure readings and neutron flow, but not visual observation. That lack of clarity is one of the most resonant lessons of the Fukushima disaster, where those trying to guide the response and assess the danger operated by what amounted to educated guesswork.
In reactors of the design used at Fukushima, that chain reaction is normally stopped when the operator gives a command to insert control rods, which rise up from the bottom of the core and separate the fuel assemblies. But when the cores of three reactors at Fukushima melted, a large part of the fuel presumably formed a jumbled mass in the bottom of the vessel, and without a strict gridlike geometry, the control rods cannot be inserted. Some of the fuel has escaped the vessel, experts believe, and is in spaces underneath, where there is no way to use control rods to interrupt the flow of neutrons.
The three reactors — together with spent fuel rods stored at a fourth damaged reactor — have been leaking radioactive material since the initial disaster, and new episodes of fission would only increase their dangers.
Re-criticality would produce more harmful radioactive material, and because the reactors are damaged, there would be a danger of a leak,” said Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, whose prescient warnings about nuclear safety have won him respect in Japan.
Mr. Koide holds that the nuclear fuel at the three reactors probably melted through containments and into the ground, raising the possibility of contaminated groundwater. If much of the fuel was indeed in the ground early in the crisis, the “feed and bleed” strategy initially taken by Tokyo Electric — where workers pumped cooling water into the reactors, producing hundreds of tons of radioactive runoff — would have prevented fuel still in the reactor from boiling itself dry and melting, but would not have done anything to reduce danger from fuel already in the soil — if it got that far.
Tokyo Electric does not deny the possibility that the fuel may have burrowed into the ground, but its officials say that “most” of the fuel likely remains within the reactor, albeit slumped at the bottom in a molten mass.
But even in their most dire assessments, some experts had not expected even bursts of re-criticality to occur, because it was unlikely that the fuel would melt in just the right way — and that another ingredient, water, would be present in just the right amounts — to allow for any nuclear reaction. If episodes of fission at Fukushima were confirmed, Mr. Koide said, “our entire understanding of nuclear safety would be turned on its head.”
Some nuclear experts have debated for months whether nuclear reactions might be continuing, either in the fuel inside the reactors, or in the spent fuel pools at the plant. They have pointed, for example, to the continued reports of short-lived iodine in the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 3.
A former nuclear engineer with three decades of experience at a major engineering firm … who has worked at all three nuclear power complexes operated by Tokyo Electric … said that tiny fuel pellets could have been carried to different parts of the plant, like the spaces under the reactor during attempts to vent them in the early days. That would explain several cases of lethally high radiation readings found outside the reactor cores.
“If the fuel is still inside the reactor core, that’s one thing,” he said. But if the fuel has been dispersed more widely, then we are far from any stable shutdown.
Hopefully, nuclear expert Paul Gunter’s fear that we face a “China Syndrome” – where the fuel from the reactor cores at Fukushima have melted through the container vessels, into the ground, and are hitting groundwater and creating highly-radioactive steam – will turn out to be overblown (even though NHK and Tepco have allegedly confirmed that steam was escaping from underground back in June, something Fukushima workers have alleged for some time):


Take a look at this - this is the web site of UC Berkeley Nuclear Engineering Department - reporting that Stuxnet was a factor in Fukushima!!!

Cracking Stuxnet

Excerpt: Stuxnet malware is reportedly a contributing factor to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Clue ... virtually every control system failed or reacted wrongly to emergency conditions....

Japan received enormous exposures from radiation. New Gunderson video.
Japan TV: Tepco was victim of “cyber attack” in past year
TEPCO just came around to admitting that it was cyber-attacked. Tepco runs Siemens software for nuclear reactors. Kosher Stuxnet was specifically written to attack Siemens software....
Video, Michael Rivero: "Stuxnet, Japan Division". LINK.
 Two interesting updates on possible Fukushima radiation poisoning - First - The case of acute lymphocytic leukemia: No, not in a young child in a high radiation spot that is often talked about on Twitter. A 63-year-old TV newscaster has been diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and is now hospitalized, getting ready for chemo. He felt a strange lump in his neck on October 28, he says. (Various news sources including: Zakzak 11/7/2011, Yomiuri Shinbun 11/6/2011) In his morning program on Fuji TV he's been promoting Fukushima produce by eating them in the show. He also happened to be in Fukushima in March 15. Just a coincidence. Never mind that ALL is predominant in small children, and an adult case is one in 100,000 annually in Japan. Second:The case of Japan's Imperial Family getting sick: The 9-year-old daughter of the crown prince and princess was hospitalized for a few days for mycoplasma pneumonia (NHK News 11/5/2011). The empress has been ill with aches and pains in the arms and legs (Sankei Shinbun 10/12/2011). Now the emperor himself is being hospitalized for bronchitis (Mainichi Shinbun 11/6/2011). The areas surrounding the imperial household in the center of Tokyo in Chiyoda-ku has elevated radiation levels. The foodstuff that is used in the imperial household - vegetables, milk, egg, beef - comes from the imperial farm in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture (Imperial Household Agency, announcement on 7/21/2011) where the radiation is even more elevated and where the meat cow nearby was found with high level of radioactive cesium. (This link goes to my English blog post.) The daughter of the crown prince and princess spent her summer vacation in Nasu. (This link is also in English.) The Kan administration sent the emperor and empress in April and May to cheer up the quake/tsunami victims in Chiba, Ibaraki, Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate, 7 weeks in a row. They ate food in Fukushima, and bring some home for their sons' families. Lastly, The case of radioactive rice in Yokohama City: The public park where 2770 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was found from the dried shiitake mushrooms, most of which had been fed to the public including 256 small children also grew rice in the rice paddies. The rice was found with 13 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. Oh such a minute amount, no effect on health! More at EX-SKF - http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/